Janet's Conner

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Thursday, May 25, 2006


The beefy-armed Derik Van Baale, who can beat anybody on a physical test, couldn't defeat the violent nightmares and intrusive thoughts that welcomed him home to Newton in 2003.

"Lots of my peers turned to alcohol when we came off active duty," said Van Baale, who was among the first front-line soldiers in bloody, chaotic Baghdad with the Army's 1st Battallion, 41st Infantry.

Van Baale drank himself to sleep every night.

Somebody suggested the veterans center in Des Moines.

He took a chance. He found himself opening up to Katrina Mach, the director there, and she helped him heal.

It often takes a veteran 12 months to put down the bottle and walk in the door, said Van Baale, who was diagnosed as 70% disabled from Post-traumatic stress disorder.

That, incidentally, comes with compensation. The government pays just over $100 a month for a 10% PTSD disability, and about $2,300 a month for a 100% disability.

Van Baale, 29, now works for the center, which is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, reaching out to Iraq and Afghanastan veterans.

"Usually your life gets pretty bad first, before you come here," Van Baale said.

Some service members are concerned about their careers, so he assures people that the free counseling is, by law, confidential.

"Their chain of command will never know about it---I was worried about that, too," Van Baale said. "If the soldier has the willingness to want to change, they can. I've done it. I know it can be done."

Source of Information: DesMoines Register
By: Jennifer Jacobs
May 21, 2006


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